- If your company offers a 401(k) match, take advantage of it. Contribute at least up to the limit of the match.
- Keep track of your expenses, every single one of them, for one month. This will open your eyes to how money leaks out of your wallet and into lattes, fast food, etc. Warren Buffett says if you buy things you don’t need, you’ll find yourself selling things you do need. Ben Franklin says,
“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.”
- Don’t carry a balance on a credit card. You’ll pay an unjustifiable interest rate.
- If you have to carry a credit card balance, call your credit card company and ask for them to lower your APR. Usually they’ll run a promo offering a lower interest rate for a specified amount of time, or they’ll lower your permanent interest rate. Ideally you should do this before you carry any balance, to improve your chances of being approved.
- Save six months of living expenses and keep it in a liquid account. Note: this is not income. It is expenses. Don’t worry about getting an investment return on this money. You want it to be cash to take care of life’s little bumps in the road.
- Understand the five types of financial emergencies. Here are the only times you should dip into your emergency fund: job loss, emergency home repair expenses, auto repair, medical emergency, or the need to travel to a funeral.
- Don’t forget to account for inflation in your retirement planning. Don’t assume that a million dollars will have the same purchasing power in fifty years.
- Purchase adequate life and health insurance. You won’t need it until you really need it, but you need to guard against emergencies. Life insurance can be put off until you have a family (spouse and children) but get health coverage as soon as you can. Health insurance will help you avoid
any hits to your emergency savings. Remember that preserving wealth is just as important as accumulating wealth.
- Do not act on “hot stock tips”. If you do, don’t allocate more than a small amount of money. We post information about stocks on PersonalFinanceGenius.com, but we always want you to arrive at your own informed decision.
- Put together a financial calendar. This way you remember to do things that are datedependent. This includes paying your taxes, pulling your credit report, or even sending birthday cards to your mentors. You don’t have mentors? Go get some.
- Set aside one minute per day to review your finances. The easiest way to do this is to get an app connected to your bank or credit account. Review your transactions and if you see anything fishy, you can take action immediately.
- Photocopy everything that you carry in your wallet. If it ever gets lost or stolen, you know the exact contents, along with the numbers to call.
- Budget for “lifestyle spending”. This is money for movies, restaurants, getaways and happy hours. “Lifestyle spending” will keep you from living like a miser and driving yourself insane. You should still be saving at least 10% of your income, but enjoy life as you go.
- When you increase your income, don’t increase your lifestyle. If anything, only spend 50% of whatever income increases you have. Doing this makes it easy for you to sock away more for investing, and you won’t even miss the money!
- Try positive affirmations. I’d be doing you a disservice if I said you could sit on the couch, say “I want more money” and have it come to you. You need to work to achieve your goals, but if you think thoughts such as “I’ll never be successful”, you’re setting yourself up for failure. On this note, get a copy of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and read it as soon as you can.
- Keep yourself occupied. If you’re working all the time or enjoying a low-cost hobby, you won’t have as much time to spend money. Trust me, money never sleeps but it does get bored.
- Don’t ever cosign a loan to help someone get approved. I don’t care if it’s your friend, family member, whoever. Do not do it! If the person doesn’t make payments, your credit score will get wrecked. Plus, if the person needs a cosigner in the first place, it means the bank doesn’t trust the person to make the payments!
- If you have to take on student loans, choose federal loans over private loans. Federal loans usually have lower interest rates and better payment terms.
- Always read the fine print, and never sign or agree to anything that you don’t understand.
- Keep your housing expenses below a third of your income. This means if you bring home
$3,000 per month, you shouldn’t pay more than $1,000 for your rent/mortgage.
- Keep an eye on your credit score. You get one free credit report per year, so make sure you take advantage of it.
- When using credit cards, keep your credit utilization ratio below 30% of your available credit. You can find this number by dividing the balance by available credit. So if you have a $3,000 credit limit, don’t charge more than $900 on the card.
- Watch out for fees. Paying high expense ratios on your investment funds will eat into your returns. Even a measly 1% can cost you big in the long run. The fees compound too!
- Rebalance your portfolio periodically. Ideally, once per year to make sure that your portfolio is still aligned with your long-term investment goals.
- Calculate your net worth. This will give you the big picture of your finances. Simply subtract your liabilities (debt) from your assets (savings, investments, etc.).
- Realize that not all debt is bad debt. Robert Kiyosaki said, “There’s good debt and bad debt. Bad debt is debt you have to pay for an makes you poor. If I use credit cards to buy new shoes it makes me poor. Good debt makes me rich and someone else pays for it.”
- Take financial advice with a grain of salt. Most financial advisors are trying to sell you something, so if you get any whiff of a sales pitch, walk away. Even us at
PersonalFinanceGenius.com have to make money, but we’re not trying to sell you some bogus mutual fund or an unnecessary insurance policy.
- Don’t worry about impressing other people. The people with the fancy cars and clothes are probably broke. Yeah, they might have Gucci shoes but what’s that bank account looking like?
- Think small. Over a fifty-year period, high quality, small cap stocks outperformed the overall market by almost 5% per year. Still, make sure these companies have financial strength, stability and growth. Don’t invest blindly.
- Open an IRA for your kids. If you have children, take their summer money and put it into an IRA account. If the kid is 16 now, compound interest will work wonders. Given an 8% return, every $1,000 will be $46,901.61 by the time he/she is 66 years old. Wow…. 46 grand from mowing lawns or working retail.
- Take advantage of credit card rewards. As long as you pay off your balance in full each and every month, go ahead and take advantage of that cash back! If you spend $500 on groceries per month, a 6% cash back card (Amex has one) will get you $360 per year.
- Get a good accountant. Don’t be cheap – they will save you much more money than they’ll ever cost you. Make sure you interview them, get plenty of references and give them as much information as possible to help them make the right decisions.
- Get the highest insurance deductible you can afford. This will keep your payments lower.
- Beware of fake IRS phone calls. If you ever get a call from the IRS, it is a scam! The Treasury Department says that hundreds of thousands people are contacted each year from people claiming to be from the IRS. They’ll say that you owe unpaid taxes and that you’ll be arrested or lose your license if you don’t pay. Don’t fall for it! The IRS always contacts people by mail.
- Don’t lease a car. On the same token, don’t finance your car for 72 months. Taking six years to pay off a car? That’s just ridiculous. Pay cash if you can, and if you can’t, keep the payoff period as low as possible. Who are you trying to impress? Cash impresses more.
- Be cautious during the holiday season. The average consumer spends over $800 during the holiday season. Stay within your means and give handmade gifts – they usually mean more anyway. Or you can embrace the Scrooge inside and give nothing at all!
- Make a checklist of investment criteria. Do your research to establish base criteria upon which you refer and abide by for each investment. A checklist will help you make investing an emotionless process.
- Take risk while you’re young. You can bounce back easily and you’ll have more time to ride out the market’s waves.
- Don’t close your credit cards if you don’t have to. Instead, make a small purchase each month and pay them off in full. Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score, so it’s best to keep the accounts open and pay them off. Even better – put a subscription service, such as Netflix, on the credit card and then link it to your bank account with automatic payment. You won’t even have to think about it anymore.
- When negotiating your salary, get the company to speak first. He, who speaks first, loses. There are so many studies that demonstrate this effect. You can also negotiate more than just your salary – you can negotiate time off, maternity/paternity leave, official title, and more.
- Read more. Knowledge truly is power. Warren Buffett claims to read eight hours per day. If you had 1/8th of his wealth, you’d have eight billion dollars. Not bad!
- Get gift cards at a discount. Buy gift cards at a discount online through a gift card exchange site. Then you can just use the gift cards on yourself. If you know you’re going to shop at Wal-Mart anyway, why not get a $100 gift card for $90?
- Unplug appliances when not in use. This is known as a “vampire charge”. Even if your appliances are not in use, as long as they’re plugged in, they’re costing you money. You can even invest in a smart power strip, which senses when you’re not using electronics and will power them down so you’re not draining electricity. A smart power strip will cost about $50, but you’ll save $100 or more per year.
- Scan your grocery receipts to get cash back. Apps like Wal-Mart’s Savings Catcher and others give you cash rebates on your grocery store purchases. All you have to do is scan your receipts after you shop. This will get you a few dollars per week.
- Know “your number”. Write down everything you want in life so you know your money target. You could even do this month to month, so every dollar has a task before you get it.
- Enroll in an automatic savings plan. Do this and have a predetermined portion of your income funneled into a separate account. This will put your savings on auto-pilot.
- Plan your meals. This will eliminate buying food that you don’t need and also cut down on impulse purchases at the grocery store.
- Compare insurance rates. You should be doing this at least annually. The cheapest isn’t always the best, but if you shop around, you can usually find the same coverage for less money.
- Use the 30-day rule. If you’re thinking about making a large purchase, wait on it for thirty days. If you still want the item after this time, go ahead and purchase. Most of the time, you’ll find that you no longer care about whatever it is you wanted.
- Drink more water. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, and one of the effects of dehydration is a false sense of hunger. The more water you drink, the less you’ll spend on unnecessary food when you’re not actually hungry.
- Make your own coffee at home. Why pay $2 per cup at a coffee shop when you could pay 25 cents at home. You can save enough money to buy two new iPhones every year. I personally love this coffee maker.
- Be careful when choosing your spouse/partner. Choose someone who matches your financial values. If you’re a saver, you can’t shack up with a spender.
- Clear your cache when shopping online. Many online retailers, especially airlines, will raise their prices when they see you shopping.
- Zip your pants before washing them. The zipper teeth will tear and ruin your clothing, slowly but surely. Zip them up to make sure the teeth don’t do any damage.
- Maintain your car. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Keep up with your oil changes, air filter replacements, and tire rotations. Staying on top of maintenance will stop problems dead in their tracks, saving you cash in the long run.
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